Holiday weekend trilogy
Catching up with Memorial Weekend political news
Holiday weekend trilogy
Dick Polman, Inquirer National Political Columnist
The sole proprietor of this blog is on the road for the month of June. Virtually all June posts will be briefer than the norm, except on those rare occasions when posts won't show up at all. Apologies in advance for this disturbance in the force. The standard verbosity will return on Monday, June 28.
So, catching up with some holiday weekend news:
Republican partisans went ballistic two weeks ago when Connecticut Democratic senatorial candidate Dick Blumenthal was caught lying repeatedly about his Vietnam war service - yet they're currently quiescent about Illinois Republican senatorial candidate Mark Kirk, who admitted this past weekend that he had lied repeatedly about his own military record. Gee, what a surprise that they're mute about this news.
Kirk, a Navy reservist elected to the House in 2001, told his supporters in an email that his staff had just "discovered" an "error" on his website. In his words, "I found that I had misidentified a military award." Nice try spinning that one. Kirk had stated - on both his campaign website and on his congressional website - that he was once the recipient of the Navy's prestigious Intelligence Officer of the Year award. In truth, he never was. And the only reason Kirk launched what he called "a recent review of my records" was because he knew that The Washington Post was sniffing around the story.
During NATO's conflict with Serbia in 1999, Kirk had been assigned to an intelligence unit at a NATO base in Italy. The following year, his entire unit received an award for outstanding service. By contrast, the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award goes to a single individual annually.
Kirk never got that one. He just said he did. The Associated Press reported the other day that Kirk and his staff had "frequently" circulated the false claim, and had never corrected the erroneous news stories. Kirk himself had stated during a House hearing - aired on C-Span in March 2002 - that "I was the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year."
I assume that Republican and Democratic partisans will now argue over whether Kirk's sin was worse than Blumenthal's, or vice versa, according to whatever cherry-picked criteria sounds best. Why don't we all simply stipulate that the impulse to exaggerate is pitifully bipartisan?
Speaking of the military, both the House and Senate took major steps late last week to finally allow gay soldiers to openly serve their country. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is on the way out - the legislation will underscore the military's own preparations for open service - and, politically, what's most striking is that most Republicans on Capitol Hill are still refusing to swim in the American mainstream on this issue. Late last Thursday, 167 House Republicans voted against open gay service; four voted in favor.
Mike Pence, the Indiana congressman who sees himself as an emerging national Republican leader, said last week: "The American people don't want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda." Pence's error was fundamental. The polls actually show that the American people want the American military to reflect a centrist political reality.
In the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, 78 percent of Americans support open gay service in the military - and nearly 60 percent of self-identified Republicans support it as well. Other national polls report similar numbers. As former George W. Bush pollster Matthew Dowd said on ABC News this weekend, "Republican office holders are so far out of step (with) where the country is." Actually, it's worse than that. They're on the wrong side of history.
So White House staff chief Rahm Emanuel got Bill Clinton to sound out Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak about possibly taking an unpaid national security advisory gig, in exchange for Sestak agreeing to drop his Senate bid. Sestak said no, Clinton quickly retreated; Sestak ran in the Senate primary, and won.
Wow, what a scandal. A White House, playing politics behind the scenes.
The Obama administration got its enemies all excited merely by refusing for so long to release the details about what had transpired during the Sestak negotiations. Turns out, thanks to its holiday eve confession, that the administration was merely conducting politics as usual. It just didn't want to cop to such conduct, because this regime wants us all to think that it always walks the high road. But it doesn't, nor is that even possible; the Obama people should just get over themselves. As conservative columnist George Will remarked on Sunday, while defending Obama in the Sestak episode, "Politics is a transactional business...That's what we do in this business, and there's nothing wrong with it."
Nevertheless, some hyperventilators will continue to paint the Sestak episode as Obama's Watergate or whatever. But they might want to check out this Associated Press story, dated Nov. 25, 1981:
"Senator S. I. Hayakawa on Wednesday spurned a Reagan administration suggestion that if he drops out of the crowded Republican Senate primary race in California, President Reagan would find him a job....In an interview earlier this week, Ed Rollins, who will become the president's chief political adviser in January, said Hayakawa would be offered an administration post if he decided not to seek re-election."
Get my point?